Indo-Pak dialogue
Cross-border terrorism is major issue: US

WASHINGTON, June 9: The US does not think Kashmir issue is on the table for resumption of a composite Indo-Pak dialogue saying the 'real question' right now is how Pakistan progressed in ending cross-border terrorism and trial of Mumbai attack suspects.

The Obama Administration however acknowledged that Kashmir is a "very important issue" between India and Pakistan and hoped the two neighbouring countries would make progress on resolving this issue. It also said there is "no change" in its Kashmir policy.

"I don't think Kashmir is really the question that's on the table now," said the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake in an interview to BBC.

"The real question right now is to first, I think, get some progress on the trial of the Mumbai suspects, those who are already in custody in Pakistan and also from the Indian perspective to see progress by Pakistan on stopping actions by Lashkar-e-Toiba and other Punjab-based terrorist groups against India," Blake said.

Giving the American perspective on Indo-US talks, Blake said that the above mentioned issues are the real "redlines" for re-establishing the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan.

State Department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters at his daily news briefing that "We recognise that (Kashmir) is a very, very important issue between India and Pakistan."

He was responding to a question on the visit of the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to Jammu and Kashmir and his offer of talks with the separatist if they abandon violence and abide by the Indian Constitution.

"As the dialogue between India and Pakistan, continues to expand, including at the leader level, that we would hope that India and Pakistan can make progress in understanding this issue and moving forward, just as they did a few years ago," Crowley said.

Appearing at a State Department Blog Forum, Blake said there is no change in America's policy on Kashmir.

"No, there's no change right now," Blake said in response to a question. I think at this point the top priority for India and Pakistan is, first, to get their own bilateral dialogue going in a more systematic way," he said.

As I said, there is very important meetings that will be taking place in Islamabad over the next two months and the Indians have in Prime Minister Dr Singh somebody who I think is personally and deeply committed to achieving peace with Pakistan, Blake said.

"But he (Prime Minister) needs to see progress on these two important issues that I spoke of; that is, progress to stop some of the cross-border infiltration that's taking place into India, but also progress on the trial of the Mumbai suspects," said the State Department official.

If we can see that, I think that there will be a flourishing of the dialogue that could take place but those are very important things that need to take place, he said.

Blake noted that from 2004 to 2007, the two countries did make quite a lot of progress on Kashmir, where they had this bilateral back channel that took place in which they had a chance for the first time to sit down very quietly and explore the outlines of an agreement.

"They didn't quite reach the end of it, but I think they made a great deal of progress.

And that, again, could be picked up, I think, relatively quickly if they can sort out some of these other issues that I talked about," he said. (PTI)


Laser guided bombs tested

NEW DELHI, June 9: The DRDO and IAF have successfully tested laser guided bombs (LGBs) designed and developed indigenously for the air force, which is planning to upgrade a large number of its unguided bombs to the standards of the new weapon. DRDO officials said here today that the user trials of the LGBs were successfully carried out at the Pokhran test ranges in Rajasthan desert by the IAF this week.

"The flight tests demonstrated the accuracy, reliability and performance of the precision air launched bombs," the officials said.

"IAF is expected to upgrade a large number of unguided bombs to this standard based on the excellent results seen," they added.

Designed and developed by Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the tests of the LGBs were conducted after extensive simulation and design validation, they said.

The LGBs were also put through ground experiments followed by a series of flight evaluation.

"A number of hi-tech components have also been developed by Indian industries for this advanced weapon package," they added. (PTI)

Pranab to head GoM on caste census

NEW DELHI, June 9: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, a known troubleshooter in the Government, will head the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to go into the ticklish issue of inclusion of caste in census.Other members of the panel include Mamata Banerjee, Farooq Abdullah, M Veerappa Moily, S Jaipal Reddy, Sharad Pawar and Kapil Sibal, Government sources said.

The GoM has to take a ‘political decision’ on whether to include caste in the ongoing census operation, an issue which had seen differences in the Government.

The GoM will have to take an expeditious decision as the second part of census was scheduled to begin in September, they said.

Government had last month decided to set up the GoM on the controversial issue after consensus eluded it at two meetings of the Union Cabinet.

Several political parties, including Samajwadi Party, RJD and JD(U), have been pressing for inclusion of caste in the census.

The issue had figured prominently in the just-concluded Budget Session of Parliament when the Prime Minister had assured the members that Government would take their views into account before deciding on the matter.

Inclusion of caste in the census was last done in the country in 1931. (PTI)

Yatra registration crosses 50,000

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, June 9: Registration for holy cave shrine of Shri Amarnath ji has crossed 50,000 during just four days with on-line bookers exceeding the number of manual registration being done by 121 designated branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank across the country.

Registration for annual pilgrimage to Amarnath shrine, beginning from July 1, was started on June 5.

Today, the registration has crossed 50,000 mark, official sources said, adding the pilgrims were preferring on-line registration. Nearly 30,000 yatris have registered themselves on-line as against 20,000 through the bank branches.

Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has fixed a quota of 4.10 lakh yatris for registration during 55 days yatra, which will conclude on August 24 on the occasion of Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan.

However, the possibility of number of pilgrims being increase from 4.10 lakh is not ruled out keeping in view the heavy rush for registration, sources said.

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